Maryland’s primary votes will matter after all

The AP reports that the race for the presidential nomination is so close in both parties that it is mathematically impossible for any candidate to lock up the nomination by Super Tuesday, Feb. 5. Good news for those of us in Maryland who will cast our ballots on Feb. 12…

“A lot of people were predicting that this presidential election on both sides was going to be this massive sprint that ended on Feb. 5,” said Jenny Backus, a Democratic consultant who is not affiliated with any candidate. Now it’s looking as if the primaries after Super Tuesday — including such big, delegate-rich states as Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania — could grow in importance. “Maybe some states were better off waiting,” said Backus.

JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor 

Battle for state dessert designation

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Delegate Page Elmore, R-Somerset, is hoping to win a sweet victory in the legislative session: to pass his bill that proposes naming Smith Island’s 10-layer cake the official state dessert. (In the newsroom, we’re wondering: what about Baltimore’s Berger cookies?)

On Tuesday, Elmore sought to win the hearts of lawmakers through their stomachs when he had about 500 slices of the cake delivered to the State House.

AP writer Kristen Wyatt watched Del. Melony Griffith, D-Prince George’s, tuck in to a thin slice of the most common flavor: yellow cake in 10-centimeter thick layers with chocolate frosting. “I make a pretty mean sweet potato pie, but oh, this is good,” said Griffith.

About 50 lawmakers have agreed to co-sign the bill, but there are some doubters. Maryland already has 21 state symbols, from the Calico cat to the state sport of jousting, and though some of them are well known, many are not.

Elmore is hoping the bill will boost Smith Island, as pollution has hurt the seafood industry and the working population of the island is dwindling, something former Daily Record reporter Steven Overly discovered when he visited the island for a feature story in August.

On the bill, anyway, we’ll just have to see how the cookie crumbles.

JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Above: Del. William J. Frank, (R-Baltimore County) accepts a wedge of 10-layer Smith Island cake Tuesday, Jan. 22.

UPDATE: Read the extended version of this post for the recipe for Smith Island cake.

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New paper warehouse opens at Locust Point

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A new 215,000-square-foot paper warehouse officially opened this morning at South Locust Point Terminal (… insert your joke from “The Office” here).

Finnish company M-real, one of the world’s leading paper manufacturers, owns the warehouse near the Ft. McHenry tunnel. After the ribbon-cutting, a ship in port began offloading the first rolls of paper (weighing 7,000 pounds apiece), which will be used for magazines, brochures and newspaper inserts.

Photos above and below by Eric Stocklin

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Baltimore students to get cash for test score improvements

We had a lot of interest in recent news of a cash reward offered to HoCo high schoolers who “snitched” on the perpetrators of a food fight.

If you felt that a cash bribe for information was iffy, this might go entirely over the line in your estimation: students in Baltimore high schools will soon get a cash incentive to boost their scores on state graduation exams.

The AP reports:

Students who have failed at least one exam under Maryland’s High School Assessments will earn $25 for improving test performance by 5 percent. If they improve an additional 15 percent, they will get an additional $35. Another 20 percent improvement will earn an additional $50.

I wonder, now, what is the incentive to do well on the exam the first time?

JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Update: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports here that Fulton County, Ga. students will be paid $8 per hour to attend after-school tutoring programs.

Marc Steiner: ‘We have to rethink the way we fight crime’

Today, WYPR host Marc Steiner speaks out on his past work as a juvenile counselor and what he thinks needs to be done in Baltimore on the Open Society Institute’s “Audacious Ideas” blog.

In Make things work NOW, he writes:

What I am proposing is that the city, state, philanthropies and businesses spend millions of dollars in gang prevention and youth intervention. Hire, train and supervise hundreds of ex-felons to work in the streets with youth and families. Take the health department experiment of Operation Safe Streets and expand it city-wide. In one sector where OSS is working there hasn’t been a murder in a year. We don’t have time to do this piecemeal.

Read Marc’s proposal and tell us what you think.

JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Fed cuts interest rate in attempt to boost economy

The Fed’s decision Tuesday to slash the federal funds rate — the interest that banks charge each other on overnight loans — apparently was the biggest one-day move by the central bank in recent memory, the AP reports. The Fed cut the rate to 3.5 percent from 4.25 percent.

Below is the statement from the Federal Reserve.

The Federal Open Market Committee has decided to lower its target for the federal funds rate 75 basis points to 3-1/2 percent.

The Committee took this action in view of a weakening of the economic outlook and increasing downside risks to growth. While strains in short-term funding markets have eased somewhat, broader financial market conditions have continued to deteriorate and credit has tightened further for some businesses and households. Moreover, incoming information indicates a deepening of the housing contraction as well as some softening in labor markets.

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Is work making you feel ill?

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My desk mate just returned from a week-long illness, my Web colleague is out sick today, and to be honest, I’m not feeling that well myself (though maybe it’s the working-on-a-federal-holiday blues?). I think it’d be safe to estimate that one third of my newsroom cohorts are sniffling.

If this sounds like your office, then you might find this piece on germs lurking at the office useful. I never wipe down my cell phone, press the “copy” button with my knuckle, or clean my workstation every day, but with every cough out of my cubicle-mate, I’m inclined to start. Maybe Howie Mandel is on to something.

JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Orioles to Astros: Thanks for taking Tejada

When the Orioles shipped shortstop Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros for five young players in December — one day before the release of the Mitchell Report (PDF) on performance-enhancing drugs — the home team saved itself more than just money in the deal.

It would seem that the Orioles’ front office saved itself what must be a monstrous off-season headache for the Astros, who have pretty much clammed up since the FBI announced a preliminary investigation into whether Tejada lied in 2005 to a congressional committee investigating steroid use. (Tejada, a U.S. resident with a green card, has maintained his innocence and reportedly says the only supplement he’s used is Vitamin B-12.)

Now the Houston Chronicle is reporting the four-time All Star, currently spending the winter in his native Dominican Republic, may not be able to return to the U.S. if he admits he lied and obstructed justice or is found guilty of doing so.

“If Tejada is convicted,” it went on, “his chances of staying in the U.S. are stronger if he has had legal residency for more than five years” but that result is not always a given. The newspaper was unable to reach a source who could say how long Tejada has had a green card.

Even Foxsports.com baseball writer Ken Rosenthal berated the Houston management last week for its “impatience” in not waiting until the Mitchell Report came out before trading for “alleged steroid user” Tejada.

Now Houston is facing the possibility that its $13 million-a-year shortstop could be deported while the O’s are rolling the dice with some top prospects. Any chance that Houston could retaliate legally, either against Tejada or the Orioles?

LIZ FARMER, Legal Affairs Writer

“Wire” fix: Ever wonder what the other half thinks?

If you’ve ever pondered how a “thug” would react to watching a couple eps of “The Wire,” you should read the second installment of NYT guest blogger Sudhir Venkatesh‘s account, published Friday. The first installment lives here.

An intro:

“A few weeks ago, I called a few respected street figures in the New York metro region to watch the upcoming fifth season. I couldn’t think of a better way to ensure quality control.”

JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

For the love of meat

raremeat3.jpgIf you haven’t been outside of your home since Christmas, you may not have realized that Valentine’s Day – the next Hallmark-sanctioned holiday – is only one month away. Egads! It’ll be here before you know it.

If you’re a woman who needs suggestions for your significant other, you may be glad to hear that our Assistant Business Editor has a lead on “the perfect gift for any man.”

In an email Ben Mook received from a PR rep for a popular Brazilian steakhouse on Pratt Street, Ben was assured that “Men everywhere will fall in love all over again when they are given an evening [here]… a place where they will be showered with 15 savory cuts of delicious meat, carved tableside by request with no limit to their hunger-driven desires.”

It may sound wacky, but it’s not as extravagant as the radio advertisement I heard earlier this week, which said that one dozen roses was no longer acceptable on Valentine’s Day — 50 is the new amount that symbolizes “eternal love.”

Have you heard any other business’s offbeat ad for V-Day?

JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor